Posts Tagged Detroit
WDET has linked up to a new organization in Detroit called Foreclosure Detroit. It is an organization that is dedicated to offering advice and help. Their website is a model for how to organize assistance and is a worthy model for us all.
I think that it’s arrival also tells us that the “New” will emerge from the ashes.
One of the best parts of blogging is to showcase material from all sources in your community.
We are all in this together!
Grace Specht, 87, has lived in one-half of a North Perry Street duplex since 2004. She found out that the property was in foreclosure when the bank taped a photocopied legal notice to her front door early in July.
Specht’s landlord never notified her that the home had fallen into foreclosure.
The property’s auction date was scheduled for Tuesday at the Oakland County Courthouse. However, the auction was then adjourned by the attorneys for the foreclosing bank, Orlans Associates of Troy.
No reason was given for the adjournment, which is one week and can be renewed by the foreclosing bank’s attorneys on a weekly basis.
Specht panicked when she read the foreclosure notice and walked to the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency to seek assistance. She told workers there that she might be evicted or that the home might fall into abandonment.
Luther Keith, the CEO of Arise Detroit – WDET’s Pivotal Community Partner in Detroit – told me in an interview last week that people in Detroit had to reinvent themselves and their city. For the real question in the worst hit cities such as Detroit was not how to save homes but how to save people and their communities.
Here is a post in full from Bloomberg that was an eye opener for me – it shows the gigantic scale of the problem that confronts Detroit and other hardest hit cities – it also maybe predicts what may happen in other cities if unemployment continues to rise. Does it also predict some of the actions that we will have to take to move forward – to Reinvent ourselves?
With enough abandoned lots to fill the city of San Francisco, Motown is 138 square miles divided between expanses of decay and emptiness and tracts of still-functioning communities and commercial areas. Close to six barren acres of an estimated 17,000 have already been turned into 500 “mini- farms,” demonstrating the lengths to which planners will go to make land productive.
The city, like the automakers, has to shrink to match what’s left, said June Thomas, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“The issue is how,” she said. “There’s no vision.”
The 11th-largest U.S. city is running out of options and money as its three biggest corporate citizens seek a federal bailout and the economy contracts. While Detroit isn’t even sure how short of revenue it is, the latest estimate from the mayor’s office puts the deficit at $200 million and climbing on an annual budget of $3.1 billion.
The population of the once vibrant manufacturing hub that grew up around the 20th century expansion of the auto business has contracted to less than 850,000 from a peak of 1.9 million in the 1950s. More fallout is expected as the area’s biggest industry eliminates jobs.
“People are moving out of the city, trying to find work,” said David Martin of Wayne State University’s Urban Safety Program. Those who stay “can’t afford to move out.”
That exodus has left Detroit with the highest poverty and foreclosure rates in the U.S. and, at 10.1 percent in October in the area including Livonia and Dearborn, one of the steepest measures of unemployment in the nation as well.
“How do you downsize to the right level when there doesn’t seem to be a bottom?” asked developer Fred Beal of J.C. Beal Construction Inc., which wants to do a $50 million conversion of the vacant 34-story David Broderick Tower near the city center into offices, shops, restaurants and lofts.
Detroit has seen decades of fruitless renewal efforts as successive mayors built sports stadiums, welcomed casinos and renovated the riverfront. That endeavor included the Renaissance Center, a downtown office-and-hotel complex that began as a Ford project in the 1970s and switched to GM ownership two decades later after failing to spur long-term development.
Move Away From Cars
Now, business coalitions such as Detroit Renaissance are moving forward with plans to identify neighborhoods where resources should be concentrated and help the area diversify away from cars. The organizations want to use local research hospitals to attract health-care and biotech startups, according to Doug Rothwell, president of Detroit Renaissance, as well as foster a creative community around the city’s legacy of advertising agencies.
“You have to build your economy with a larger number of smaller companies,” he said. That means “growing by 20 jobs at a time, rather than replacing the thousands of jobs you’re losing.”
Current projects are concentrated downtown, along the Detroit River and in a four-mile corridor along Woodward Avenue to GM’s former headquarters, now a state office building.
“You’re not going to redevelop all 138 square miles at the same time,” said Olga Stella, vice president for business development at the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., which coordinates the city’s revival efforts. “Private-market forces have made decisions on where they want to develop.”
The city hasn’t made similar choices yet. Detroit’s Recreation Department is the only agency that acknowledged the need to shrink, Thomas said. Its 2006 master plan called for “fewer but better sites and facilities.”
“It’s a sign of what’s to come for other departments,” Thomas said.
Planning has been delayed by the resignation of former two- term Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick after pleading guilty to lying about an extramarital affair. The city will hold a special election in May, with 18 candidates already filing.
On Nov. 25, the City Council passed a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan that seeks $47 million from the federal government to address the city’s problem of vacant buildings and empty land. An estimated 55,000 lots are considered unproductive because they bring in no taxes and cost money to maintain.
The grant would pay for knocking down 2,350 of Detroit’s tens of thousands of abandoned homes and clear the sites for development. If no buyers materialize, planners would consider adding the space to public parks or land reserved for recreation or environmental preservation.
A land bank the city created in July would coordinate the project if approved by Washington. These clearinghouses for vacant lots make it easier and cheaper for developers to invest in urban areas. Parcels in a similar program in Cleveland sold for as little as $1 as long as buyers agreed to maintain the property and pay taxes.
“We’re looking at pretty innovative ideas,” said George Jackson, Detroit Economic Growth’s chief executive.
One is urban farming. In many parts of Detroit, land that once held houses now grows cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and collard greens.
The city has more than 500 gardens and “we plan to triple that every year,” said Michael Travis, deputy director of Urban Farming, a Detroit-based nonprofit corporation that helps clear land and provides topsoil and fertilizer.
When the Mortgage Crisis began to be noticed in the spring of 2008 – it was all about “them” – the “foolish” people that had taken out stupid loans. Many people felt that such people deserved no help. In fact they felt that they deserved to “pay” for their mistake.
Since then the “story” has begun to change. Many now see that the “foolish” people were in effect most of “us”. That we had been part of a massive delusion about housing and credit. That a gigantic and powerful system had helped us with that delusion. Secondly that we started to see that even if we were OK, we could not avoid being hurt.
For if homes on our street went vacant and were blighted, “we” were going to be the big loser. In the mortgage crisis – there is no “them” there is only “us”.
The blight of the “Ripple Effect” is a cancer. Many of our partner stations are bringing this cancer to light – Here is a report from Michigan Radio that not only highlights the problem but shows us a way to deal with it and shows us what we should ask for from Government:
ANN ARBOR, MI (Michigan Radio) – Foreclosures don’t just hurt families, they hurt entire neighborhoods. Foreclosed properties reduce the value of other homes around it, and if houses sit vacant too long, they attract vandalism and crime.
A new federal program is providing millions of dollars to help stabilize these neighborhoods.
“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” says John George,”Could everybody just step forward for a moment please so we can talk a little bit? Everybody have gloves? Everybody have dust masks?”
John George is standing in front of a giant pile of rubble in on a residential street in northwest Detroit. He’s giving instructions to about 40 volunteers, mostly school kids from Ann Arbor, who are helping him clear a demolished house.
“I want you guys to start now, with these cans, loading everything up except the wood. OK?” says George.
George runs a group called Blight Busters. The group is using some of the $47 million dollars the federal government is pouring into Detroit as part of its Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The Blight Busters use the money to tear down vacant houses.
“It’s important that you nip it in the bud before it spreads and kills the rest of the neighborhood. This particular house was a home for many, many years, became vacant, and then became a nuisance with people in and out. We call this negative energy. It is our goal to clear all of this negative energy off of this lot, fill in the hole, grade the lot, put up a white picket fence and create a neighborhood gathering place,” says George.
Only California and Florida got more stabilization money than Michigan and a second round of grants is underway. George hopes much of the new money will come to Blight Busters.
“We’re looking for some significant dollars to allow us to not only continue, but really put this neighborhood back on a strong foundation,” says George.
Only 6% of the stabilization money across the country is being used to tear houses down, but Detroit is using a third of its money for demolition and more than 3,000 vacant homes were demolished last year.
So what might be the new work when the jobs are gone?
I think that we see signs of this in the stories of people who are living the loss but are working to help others and themselves rise above it.
So we have the story of Ian Perotta who bought 5 derelict homes in Detroit and is setting up a community to fix them up and offer shelter.
We have the story of Harry Ryan that is using the land from 5 raised houses owned by the Land Bank to set up an urban farm to feed people in hos community.
Today, thanks to Michigan Public Radio, I would like to introduce you to Linda Johnson.
Linda Johnson is 62 years old. She’s a retired elementary school principal. She has a PhD. And she almost lost the home she’s owned for 30 years.
Johnson’s home was paid off, but she took a new mortgage to pay for her daughter’s education.
She believed she was getting a fixed-rate loan at six-and-a-half percent interest.
What Johnson actually got was an adjustable rate mortgage that jumped to 12 percent. She felt duped, but for her, there was something much worse:
“I mean I’m very angry at myself for not reading it more carefully. It’s hard to talk about it because it’s admitting to everyone, that, as a reading teacher, I didn’t read carefully.”
Johnson tried to tackle the problem herself. She worked with her lender for a year, trying to reduce the interest rate. She spent hours on hold, and being shuffled from person to person.
Johnson’s lender eventually cut her interest rate — to 11 and a half percent. It wasn’t enough. The payments were too high, and Johnson was worn down by worry and frustration.
“Well, all the time that I was working on it, I was thinking am I going to be here, what’s going to happen to me. It’s very stressful. You’re always on edge, always on edge. It never goes away.”
Johnson was close to losing her home. Then she saw a newspaper story about federal legislation that might help her. She called Senator Carl Levin’s office, and they told Johnson about the Wayne County Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Program.
She was one of the first clients. They helped her get a fixed-rate mortgage at the original terms and saved her home.
Now, less than two years later, Johnson works for the program. She helps others save their homes.
I see a common theme don’t you. Helping your community is a great start. We cannot get through this on our own and we cannot rely on being bailed out. We have to make our own difference – as your pubic TV and Radio station is doing too.
Isn’t it strange that we have lost the idea of working for our community? My hope is that the more we hear of people like Ian, Harry and Linda, the more normal it will become. My hope is that we in public media can not only do our best to connect people who may lose their homes to help, but also to help connect people to each other so that we can help rebuild our self respect, our pocket books and our communities.
What we are finding is that the first thing that we can do to help is to offer “Help” trusted access to people who can advise you. Nearly every front page of every station involved in this project has a window to help.
But after that what people need is “Hope”. Many will lose their homes. If you have no work, you cannot keep your home. What happens when you have lost everything?
What can Hope be then?
I think that Hope is again found in story. Stories of people who are taking practical action to better themselves and others when all has been lost. I find that I can hope when I see someone like me, who is doing something that I could do.
What do I mean? Here is an example in my own life. After years of adding more pounds every year and telling myself that this was a natural part of getting older, I met an old friend of mine who looked great. He had always been a bit chubby. But finally he made some simple changes to his life and he lost 30 pounds. No amount of nagging from my poor wife Robin had got me to change. But when I saw John and what he had done, I knew I could do it. I am 12 pounds lighter now and on my way. John’s story had all the elements that helped me change my life.
That is the kind of story that offers real hope.
Here is how WDET is covering the story of Ian Perotta
Ian Perotta was easing through his senior year of college in Pennsylvania when he saw the 20/20 report on The $100 House. As soon as the piece ended, he got on Craigslist to search for some other cheap houses in Detroit. After finding a bundle of five houses on the Hamtramck/Detroit border, he was in his car with his brother, heading for what he thought might be the real estate promised land. By weekend’s end, he had aquired five foreclosed homes for $1,400 (excluding several thousand in back taxes he’s trying to renegotiate). And by May (he bought the houses in March), he had graduated from college, and moved into one of the foreclosed homes.
The original idea was to convince some other friends from back home to pick up and move to Detroit like he did. But the idea has since evolved into a less friend-centric, and more altruistic venture called Habitat for Hamtramck. Basically, his plan is to renovate the five houses he bought, and then give them away to people who could offer their services to the neighborhood in which the house is. Hear the details below……..
Who are your action heroes?
Much of what your public radio or TV station can do in the mortgage crisis is to connect you to people who have the knowledge to help you keep your home.
But in some cases this will not be possible. We can connect you to help but your home may not be savable.
Some cities in America are in a new phase of the Mortgage Crisis – Las Vegas, Cleveland, Detroit – cities in California and Florida – where it may not be possible to save almost any home where foreclosure proceedings have begun.
In these cases, the issue is now how to help you when you may have lost your home and your job. How to help you when you have lost the foundation of your life. What kind of help can that be?
One answer is to give you hope.
What does that mean? It means helping you find out, in a realistic and tangible way how to rebuild your life.
I will talk more about this over the next few months. But right now I wanted to tell you about one of the things that is happening in Las Vegas – one of the worst hit cities.
One of the worst things that can happen to any of us is to have nothing meaningful to do.
Jobs are vital. Without one how do we pay the bills. Our work is central to giving us meaning. When we meet a person for the first time, we ask them “What do you do?” Our work defines us. So when we lose our job, who are we? Many people are losing their jobs. This is why many are losing their homes as well.
But in reality, many jobs are in themselves boring and meaningless. Many wish we could do something that we could get excited about. Some are finding that losing their job has strangely brought them back to life.
Here is a link to a NewsHour piece on how many are finding that not having their boring job has empowered people to get behind their passion.
Many can cope with losing their home so long as they can find shelter. But not having work is a kind of death.
We need to be able to get up in the morning and have some thing and some people to go to. If we have good work and we are with good people, we can also rebuild our networks. With a good network, we can also have a much better chance of getting paid work.
If this cannot be your old job, then many are finding that volunteering is a good first step. But of course the issue then is how do I find a good volunteer job?
What KNPR and many organizations in Las Vegas have done is to make it easy for people to volunteer to help organizations that are helping people in the community.
During National Volunteer Week, April 19-25, Nevada Public Radio partnered with the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada to hold it’s first-ever Volunteer-A-Thon. April is the time when Nevada Public Radio holds its annual spring membership campaign. Instead of asking for members we asked listeners to give something perhaps more valuable – their time. The Volunteer-A-Thon culminated with an on-air drive for volunteers that was also an opportunity to recognize corporate partners who champion volunteerism and support employee volunteers.
Southern Nevadans answered the call to service during the Volunteer-A-Thon, with more than 460 people pledging more than 11,655 volunteer hours to local nonprofit organizations. During the Volunteer-A-Thon, 32 new nonprofit organizations also signed up with the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada.
So instead of asking for money for the station – KNPR pushed its pledge week out a month – they asked for people to help each other and made it easy to choose what they wanted to do. The 11,000 hours are equivalent to over $200,000 worth of time.
KNPR did not do this on its own – but was helped in turn by not only the Volunteer Centre of Southern Nevada but by a number of corporations such as Zappos, Southwest Gas, Wells Fargo, & Harrahs.
Many good things are coming out of this action. Most important, the splintered community of Las Vegas is coming together. The volunteer organizations, themselves short of money, are getting help and are knitting as a group. For Profit organizations, are joining in. Most importantly, when all might seem lost, rather than not taking action, people are getting out, being with others and doing important work.
Maybe in the scheme of things, this is small right now. But maybe also it might be the beginning of some thing big. We see signs of this in other hard hit cities such as Detroit and Cleveland. You can get so far down that the only way out is up. The only people you can rely on is each other. This is the magic moment when the word “Community” starts to come to life.
“The Sleeper Awakes!”
Events in Iran are centre stage right now. The use of social media is enabling the people to connect with each other and to stand up together in very dangerous circumstances. They know that their only hope is to make it clear to the rulers and to the world that they will not be cowed. With traditional media largely blocked, we are also seeing the other side of this revolution. Millions of non Iranians are actively working to keep the Iranian voice in the public domain. They are not sitting back, helpless, but are also engaged.
The Iranian story has put for me the essence of what “Engagement” will be for our future. Here in America, Public Radio and TV are also working to give voice and direct help and support to the millions of Americans who are directly affected by the Mortgage and Now Financial Crisis.
Big claim to make! So what is it that we are doing that is different and why do I think this may be a turning point not only in how media works but also in how America works?
Have a look at this video and then see if you see what I see.
Here we see a citizen who is taking back his power with others in his community. His story is also a call to action. When you watch it, your reaction is not simply, “That’s nice,” but “This could happen to me. I could do what they are doing.” This is a very liberating and empowering perspective that is the opposite of how most news stories are presented.
You can see that this will be part of a continuing meta story of people taking back their power. The web also enables WDET to have an infinite amount of space to cover this story. For on the dial, time is short and fleeting. The story can only last a few minutes–two maybe at the most–and then is lost forever. With social media, WDET has unlimited space and the story never dies. Google can always find it and others can build on it. This kind of story becomes a “seed” that can grow not only into a tree but a forest.
- The narrator is not a journalist–who is separate and who stands above the situation–the journalist has subsumed herself and has become a facilitator to enable a citizen to get his voice out to the larger public
- The narrator, protagonist, is a member of the public who is directly affected by his situation
- He is showing us what is going on with his community. What is happening there is changing our view of the problem–many of us think that this problem is confined to other people besides the middle class. His authority is his authenticity. We don’t need editors and fact checkers to “know” that he is showing us his truth.
- He can pull this off because he is using his authentic human voice–all humans have an acute ability to detect insincerity. The traditional journalism voice is not “Human” it is institutional and disengaged. It is hard to know if a journalist is telling the truth because he stands outside the story.
- With an authentic voice, he can connect to the human heart, not just to the brain. It is in the human heart that Engagement resides. Engagement is not found in the brain or the intellect
- The power of this connection is amplified by the sponsor of this story, WDET, a public station that has both its own Trust and also a big megaphone–once again the journalist/editor now is acting as a facilitator
- Finally what makes this story compellingly engaging is that it leads to action that is in the control and capability of any of us. We too can take action to help people in our community in the same way that this community is acting.
Seventy-six stations in 32 of the worst hit, foreclosure, markets in the US are working together to give you your voice and to give you the power to take action.
In my next post I will talk more about the action aspect. For unless there is help, we can do little. There is help and your radio and your TV station are also working to make it easier to find and stronger in itself.